As we come to the end of the year and look forward to the festive break, it is also an important time to reach out to family and friends. Much of our contact continues to be over the internet and social media. We need to enjoy the experience but let’s remind ourselves to not let our guard down and get caught out by those increasingly sophisticated scammers out there. In 2020, festive shoppers lost £15.4m from scams. Many of us will question how this is possible, but scammers have a variety of techniques to successfully dupe individuals and businesses and here’s just a reminder of some of the most common scams of 2021 and what to watch out for in the New Year.
One of the most common scams criminals use is promoting products at extremely low prices. Scammers will try to tempt shoppers with heavily discounted offers, but after taking the customer’s details and payment, the goods fail to arrive or are fake products. It is always better not to make payments via a bank transfer and use methods such as PayPal or credit cards which give shoppers greater consumer protections.
Another popular technique has seen scammers clone genuine websites of household names. It is always best to go to the website direct rather than using a link. Checking the URL and looking for the ‘padlock/https’ tags before committing to a purchase are features that will indicate a website is secure.
However, scammers are not only targeting shoppers; criminals target multiple parts of our lives from family, work, banking, dating and health.
Scammers will also use relevant seasonal topics in an attempt to expose your devices to malicious software (malware). For example, you may receive fake emails and texts regarding a Christmas card from a friend or relative, or the offer of a free Christmas gift from a business whose services you use. These types of attacks are called Phishing. They are used by attackers in an attempt to trick users into doing ‘the wrong thing’, such as clicking a bad link that will download malware, or direct them to a malicious website.
Other scams include Vishing, short for “voice phishing,” and involves defrauding people over the phone, by enticing them to divulge sensitive information. Smishing, or SMS phishing, is the act of committing text message fraud to try to lure victims into revealing account information or installing malware. Similar to phishing, cybercriminals use smishing, the fraudulent attempt to steal credit card details or other sensitive information, using fake information to make the texts appear to be from a legitimate individual or company.
We have put together a useful infographic highlighting some of the most common scams of 2021 and how to avoid getting caught out.